By Rebecca Cahilly
Meet Jenny Patrizia, the Sexy Nutritionist. This self-described “tomboy” is as passionate about nutrition as she is the human connection. She’s here to tell us there is such a thing as aphrodisiac foods, particularly of the spicy variety.
I caught up with Jenny at one of her “Passion at First Bite” cooking demonstrations at Kitchen 305 in the Newport Beachside Hotel & Resort in Sunny Isles Beach. A celebrity chef, author and revered Latina TV personality, Jenny hosts weekly classes focused on creating healthy meals and cocktails using only aphrodisiac ingredients.
With an equal dose of skepticism and curiosity, I skimmed the agenda: “Food Foreplay,” “Chocolate Orgy” … before settling on the session called “Spice Life.” I’m a fan of spicy foods, but with two young kids at home, food is for eating – nothing more.
The night of the session, after brief introductions to the other students, I found myself blindfolded, taste testing cayenne pepper, cinnamon and chili powder while sipping on a jalapeño margarita. Awkward? A bit. Silly? Maybe. Yummy? Absolutely. But this is Jenny’s intent – she wants her clients and students to have fun while learning more about nutrition and the human connection.
Nutrition is Boring
“Food is a psychological thing, it’s very cultural. It connects us as humans,” says the former beauty-pageant queen who combined her degree in psychology and nutrition with studies in human sexuality and personal training. With a mother and aunt who both won the coveted Miss Venezuela title in the late 1960s, Jenny grew up in the pageant world, which she says was important in Venezuela.
“I was an athlete, a tomboy, but I did pay attention to how people would eat or would not eat to create a certain image for themselves.”
But nutrition is boring, not sexy.
“I realized that people didn’t want to hear about nutrition and be told ‘Don’t eat this, don’t eat that,’” she says. “I knew there had to be a way to tap into people’s interest in wanting to take care of themselves.”
Jenny had always been interested in aphrodisiac foods and whether there was any truth to their alleged sexy properties. She began researching the components in foods that had long been revered for their aphrodisiac qualities – and what she found was more common sense than mystical power.
“Oysters are loaded in zinc,” Jenny says, “which can influence the production of testosterone – if you don’t have enough zinc, your testosterone levels will be low, which will affect your sex drive. People who suffer from anxiety and stress should eat foods high in Vitamin B. It helps relax the nervous system. It we are overly stressed and anxious, we won’t be in the mood.
“Ginseng is interesting, especially for menopausal women, as it balances out the hormones. Spicy foods, chili peppers, citrus fruit, for example, increase circulation. Why are these aphrodisiac? Without circulation you won’t have sufficient blood flow to those areas that are vital for sex. It’s as simple as that. Circulation, relaxation and increasing testosterone – this all helps how your body will function and will react sexually.”
She adds: “When I put two and two together, I found that these foods also contain properties that will increase your metabolism and burn fat.”
This inspired Jenny to write her first book, Eat Sexy, Lose Weight, featuring recipes using pure, all-aphrodisiac ingredients. People began calling her the “Sexy Nutritionist,” and the name stuck, so much so that she had it trademarked.
The Big “C” – Capsaicin
So what does being blindfolded and guessing whether that burning sensation on your tongue is coming from red pepper or cayenne have to do with sex and, ultimately, health? Spicy foods – those that burn your mouth – have long been considered sexual stimulants. After all, when you eat them you may start sweating, your heart rate will increase, all of which are similar physical reactions experienced during sex.
But more important, there is one ingredient – capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper – whose benefits are backed by scientific studies. Capsaicinoids have been found to prevent chronic diseases and promote weight loss. Studies involving lab rodents fed capsaicin-rich diets have shown favorable effects on atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and stroke risk, among others. They also are packed with vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Capsaicin has demonstrated promise for cancer treatment, as it tends to activate cell receptors in the intestinal lining, which yields a reaction that lowers tumor risk. It has been shown to suppress the growth of human prostate cancer cells without harming normal cells and has also been shown to be effective against pancreatic, breast and bladder cancer cells.
According to a recent Chinese health study published in August 2015, a diet rich in spicy food was shown to have a direct link to decreased death in comparison to other diets. While more evidence from clinical trials is needed, this is the first study to report a link between spicy food intake and mortality.
Chilis for Breakfast,
Lunch and Dinner?
“While foods with capsaicin can clean out plaque buildup, reduce cardiovascular diseases, are anti-inflammatory and also contain lots of vitamins A and C, I would advise anyone with an ulcer, digestive problem or underlying heart condition to use caution when adding spicy foods to their diet,” Jenny says. “Otherwise, eating spicy is wonderful for you – it cleans you out, increases your metabolism and definitely puts you in the mood.”
At the end of the day, the Sexy Nutritionist’s main advice is to eat for balance and pay attention to the ingredients and how they will make your body react.
“The saying ‘You are what you eat’ is true,” Jenny says. “Everything you eat will have an effect on how your body will function. Even down to people with low libido – foods high in saturated fats will clog arteries and blood flow is key. There’s always a direct reaction between what you are putting in your body and how you will feel sexually and function sexually.
“Sometimes the challenge is changing people’s idea,” she says. “When you’re invading their culture, those are the biggest challenges. You have to be creative with what you are offering them without stepping on their tradition.
“I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, I’m just here to push it a certain way.”
I will toast to that, with a jalapeño margarita.
Learn more about Jenny Patrizia’s Passion at First Bite classes
and her new line of healthy gourmet trail mixes at passionatfirstbite.com.
The Sexy Nutritionist’s Cayenne Peppered Shrimp Recipe
2 tsp lemon juice
2 T olive oil
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 pounds cooked, deveined and peeled shrimp
1 cup red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup green bell pepper, sliced
1 cup onion, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat pan and caramelize the bell peppers and onions. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix in cayenne, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice.
In a large skillet, toss shrimp, bell peppers, onions and sauce.
Simmer for 3 minutes.
Garnish with lemon wedges